TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – As the Maryland men’s basketball team walked away from the site of its latest embarrassing loss, left to handle the prospect of moving forward, the speaker system here began blaring a fitting tune. It was called “Bastille,” by the group Pompeii, and a more cynical listener would surmise that, through the lyrics, Florida State’s house deejay had a particularly evil sense of humor and was trying to add salt to the wounds.
But if you close your eyes, does it almost feel like nothing changed at all?
And if you close your eyes, does it almost feel like you’ve been here before?
How am I gonna be an optimist about this?
How am I gonna be an optimist about this?
Somehow, the Terrapins managed to unscramble something productive from a 85-61 blowout against the Seminoles on Sunday night, a game in which they shot poorly, defended poorly and were out of contention about a half-hour into the festivities. After losing by a combined 44 points in the past two games, the ship has already begun running aground, but with short-handed Notre Dame visiting College Park this Wednesday, Maryland (10-7, 2-2 ACC) can rebound soon enough.
Besides, what else can the Terps and Coach Mark Turgeon offer besides unrelenting optimism? January, now almost halfway over, ends with three winnable home games over the next four, including a rematch against Pittsburgh. After that comes four road games in two weeks to start February, and by that point Maryland could easily have solved the problems or, like it did Sunday, could be tumbling even further down the mountain.
“Just got to keep trying to figure it out,” Turgeon said. “Just got to stay positive. We turn around Wednesday. I think we need a game soon. I think it’s great that we have a game soon.
“Kids are resilient. We’ll bounce back. We’re 2-2 [in ACC play]. It’s not where we want to be. We’ve had three of our first four on the road, played two pretty good teams back to back on the road. Disappointed. I wished we could have competed a little bit better. Hopefully we will Wednesday.”
Afterwards, Dez Wells began thinking about his basketball heroes, players like Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Michael Jordan, and wondered how they would respond to something like this. The Terps were behind by 20 points at halftime and, following five Florida State three-pointers in as many possessions, never made a serious dent or even threatened to do so.
Wells had scored a team-high 15 points and attempted 10 free throws, a key aspect of Maryland’s game plan. The Terps wanted to be the aggressors, attacking Florida State’s army of shot blockers to reach the line. It worked, if only briefly, before the Seminoles ended things with swish after swish.
“You just have to move on,” Wells said. “That’s life. Everything’s not going to go your way. We’re not going to play good every night. We’re not going to be the team we are when we play great. We’re not going to be that team every night. We just have to move on.
“With a minute left, when I came out of the game, I started tapping my teammates on the head, making sure they keep their heads up. It’s not the end of the world. We have another game on Wednesday. That’s the great thing about college basketball, that you lose a game, it’s not the end of the world. It’s not the NCAA tournament right now, so we have a lot of basketball left to play.”
Of course, outings like this inhibit Maryland’s quest to “be the team we are when we play great.” Wells seemed to place the burden on himself as a team leader, but the Terps have approached crossroads like this before — think Oregon State, Boston University and, as recently as six days ago, Pittsburgh. Each game brought promises of change, of crisper offense and tougher defense, but only the same inconsistencies followed. After, the typically blunt Turgeon often offers some variation of the same speech: credit for the opposing team, areas of improvement for the Terps, confusion for him as the coach, optimism moving forward.
“Coach just keeps it positive, no matter what the score is,” guard Nick Faust said. “Tries to tell us that no loss is as bad as it is, and no win is as good as it is. He tries to keep it even, keep guys level.”
With frustration mounting among the fans, many taking to Twitter and calling for Turgeon’s job, Faust said he understood the innate reaction given the “big-point losses.” But when asked for his take on the matter, the junior, like everyone else on the visitor’s bench, tried to stay upbeat, even if it felt like nothing had changed at all, even if it had felt like they had been here before.
“Coach believes in us, we believe in him,” Faust said. “We think we’re doing the right things here at Maryland.”